Reporter Tim Pool with VICE had his press marker ripped off his chest by a police officer in Ferguson this morning as the police continue to ratchet up their level of violence. Other reporters were allegedly arrested and subjected to chemical attacks again today. When the police force the media out of an area they lose all credibility when they tell their side of whatever happened.
What lessons does Ferguson have for Massachusetts?
Our police are being given the same weapons and training as the officers in Ferguson. Our police are not held accountable by the justice system here too (for instance every officer involved in Alyssa Brame’s death in custody will keep their job and the demotions given were temporary instead of the jail time anyone without a badge would have received). Our police have threatened to arrest Andrew and I repeatedly when we try to film events.
What if instead of all the military gear Ferguson had put in dash and badge cameras?
The Ferguson police could prove the struggle they claim happened (if it did) by simply presenting the video. If they had a video detailing Mike Brown attacking their officer and trying to grab his gun in the car the police would have the moral high ground here… Cameras are a good cop’s best friend. No more “he said… um he can’t say… because that first guy shot him to death.” If the footage shows the witness version of events then the police could arrest the officer. Transparency here instead of curfews and violence would diffuse the situation.
In Massachusetts we need a way to hold police accountable for their actions. At present the police are investigated by other police either from their department or from the state police and then it’s up to the district attorney, who relies on the credibility of the police department to do their job, to decide if the police officer will be prosecuted. Unsurprisingly the police are rarely prosecuted. The badge has become a license to kill and there is no relief in the justice system. If we do not change this, people will continue to be pushed to a breaking point.
Alyssa Brame was unconscious so she could have been anyone. Brame died in police custody on film yet no one charged and no one fired. Military veteran Denis Reynoso was shot dead in front of his son in his home. Police entered for unknown reasons and ignored that they were told before they entered that Reynoso was in need of medical help. Officers had no warrant, and Reynoso was unarmed – the police claim he tried to grab an officer’s gun. No one charged and no one fired. In both cases it is clear no real investigation was conducted.
If we want to avoid having a Ferguson in Massachusetts, it’s time to demilitarize the police, hold them accountable, and teach them to respect citizens' and journalists' rights to record.